Nats’ Notes- September 9, 2017

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Michael A. Taylor celebrates his inside the park grand slam home run in the Nationals’ 11-10 victory over the Phillies at Nationals Park on Friday September 8th.

The Nationals stand at 87-54 and 19 games up in the National League East with only 21 games left to play in the 2017 regular season. Here’s a look at a few interesting notes coming out of the Nats’ recent games.

JUST CAN’T WAIT TO GET ON THE ROAD AGAIN

Washington has won a Major League high (tied with Houston) 45 road games this year. With road series’ against the Braves, Mets and Phillies yet to be played, the team is only three wins away from its team best 48 victories in enemy ballparks.  If the Nats go at least 5-4 on the final road trip of the year, they will become only the third National League team since 2000 with at least 50 road victories in a season.  The 2005 St. Louis Cardinals and the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies had 50 road wins each.

The National League record for most road wins in a season is 53, last achieved by the Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants who won 53 each in the 1993 season.

STERLING STARTS

The Nationals have a Major League high 67 games this season in which their starting pitchers have thrown at least six innings and allowed two or fewer runs.   The Cleveland Indians are next in this category seven games behind the Nats at 60, and no other team is closer than 12 games away from the Nats’ mark (Arizona and the Los Angeles Dodgers have 55 such games each).

Cy Young Award candidates Gio Gonzalez (17), Max Scherzer (16) and Stephen Strasburg (13) have the most six innings plus, two or fewer runs allowed game for the National League East leaders. Tanner Roark is next with nine games, followed by Joe Ross and Edwin Jackson with five each and A.J. Cole with two.

NATS’ BATS

The Nationals have not only been superb at preventing runs from scoring in 2017, they’ve also been great at scoring.

Last night’s 11-10 victory over the Phillies gave the Nats a Major League high 21 games in 2017 where they’ve scored 10 or more runs.  Cleveland and Texas are next with 17 such games each.  Colorado, with 15, is second in the National League.

The Nationals’ 21 10 plus runs scored contests has shattered the team mark of 14 such games, set in the 2016 season.  The only other seasons in which Washington has had at least 10 games with runs scored in double figures are 2015 (11 games), 2012 (11), 2009 (10) and 2008 (10).

MILESTONES IN REACH 

Nats’ first baseman Ryan Zimmerman hit his team leading 30th and 31st home runs of the season this week, putting him only two round trippers behind his personal best the  33  he hit in 2009.   Zimmerman also has 95 RBI, and he appears primed to post the third 100 plus RBI season of his career.  Zimmerman’s best RBI mark was 110 set in his rookie year of 2006. He drove in 106 runs in the 2009 season.

The notoriously streaky hitter has also shown signs that September might be a month to remember for him. In 27 at bats so far this month, Zimmerman has hit .370 with two homers and seven runs driven in.

HOME RUN HIGHLIGHTS

Trea Turner’s ninth home run of the year against the Phils on Friday puts him one blast away from joining the Nats’ 2017 ten plus home run club. Seven Nationals (Zimmerman with 31, Bryce Harper with 29, Anthony Rendon with 23, Daniel Murphy with 22, Michael A. Taylor with a career high 15, Brian Goodwin with 13 and Adam Lind with 11) have already put up double digit numbers in home runs.

Turner, Matt Wieters and Jayson Werth have all hit nine round trippers so far this year. If at least two of the three get to 10 or more home runs on the year, the Nats will set a record for the most double digit home run hitters in team history. The 2015 and 2016 squads both had eight players with 10 or more homers.

Michael A. Taylor’s inside the park grand slam home run on Friday was the fifth in Nats’ history, and the first with runners aboard.   Austin Kearns (May 12, 2007 against Florida), Willie Harris (September 24, 2010 against Atlanta), Zimmerman (May 15, 2016 against Miami) and Stephen Drew (May 31, 2016 at Philadelphia) are the other Nationals who have hit inside the park homers.

LEADING BY A LOT

If the Nationals hold or improve on their current lead in the Nationals League East, they will become the first team since the 2008 Los Angeles Angels to win its division by at least 19 games.  The 2008 Angels won their division by 21 games in that season.

11 teams have won their divisions by at least 15 games since the current divisional format was adopted.  A word of caution for those thinking a big lead a team will be playing until the week of Halloween; before the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last year, the six previous teams (including the 2014 Nats) who won their division by such a margin all lost in the Divisional Playoff round).

Here’s a look at the 11 teams who cruised to a divisional win, with a list of what  happened to them in the post-season:

1995 Atlanta Braves  Won NL East by 21 games-  Won World Series

1995 Cleveland Indians Won AL Central by 30 games- Lost World Series to Atlanta

1998 Atlanta Braves  Won NL East by 18 games-  Lost in NLCS to San Diego

1998 New York Yankees Won AL East by 22 games- Won World Series

1999 Cleveland Indians  Won AL Central by 21.5 games- Lost in the ALDS

2002 Atlanta Braves  Won NL East by 19 games-  Lost in the NLDS

2003 San Francisco Giants  Won NL West by 15.5 games- Lost in NLDS

2008 Los Angeles Angels Won AL West by 21 games- Lost in ALDS

2011 Detroit Tigers  Won AL Central by 15 games- Lost in ALDS

2014 Washington Nationals Won NL East by 17 games- Lost in NLDS

2016 Chicago Cubs  Won NL Central by 17.5 games- Won World Series

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Game 108 Review- Cubs 7 Nationals 4

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Chicago’s Willson Contreras admires his sixth inning two run home run off of Washington’s Matt Grace in the Cubs 7-4 victory over the Nationals on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Game 108

Nationals’ Record- 64-44, first place in the National League East, 13 games ahead of Miami

Chicago Cubs 7  Nationals 4

WP-  Lackey (9-9)   LP- Jackson (2-2)  SV- W. Davis (23)

HR- Harper Was (28),  Avila Chc (12), Contreras Chc (19)

As was the case with Friday afternoon’s game, there was a playoff atmosphere at Wrigley Field yesterday as the Nationals and Cubs squared off in game two of their weekend series.  This time it was the Cubs who emerged victorious, riding the wave of a four run first inning and holding late threats by the Nats to earn a 7-4 victory.

STARS OF THE GAME

On a team with popular superstars such as Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant and established veterans such as Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward, it is easy for some of the team’s younger players to get lost in the shuffle.  If talented Willson Contreras keeps playing like he’s been recently, that is not going to be possible. Contreras drove in three runs, including two on a laser shot home run in the bottom of the sixth, to pace the Chicago attack. Since the all-star break, Contreras 27 RBI match Colorado’s Nolan Arenado for the most in the Major Leagues.

Contreras played left field in yesterday’s game because Joe Maddon had new Cub Alex Avila start behind the plate. The veteran backstop made his start count, hitting a two run first inning home run off of Washington’s Edwin Jackson to give the Cubbies a 4-1 lead.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

Nats’ left-handed reliever Sammy Solis was a valuable asset out of Washington’s bullpen in 2016, posting a solid 1.1 WAR on the year.  Things have not gone as well for the 6’5″ Minnesota native so far in 2017, but he did a superb job in yesterday’s contest.  Solis threw 1.2 scoreless innings with four strikeouts, punching out Rizzo and Contreras to leave two Cubs stranded in the seventh inning and fanning Zobrist and Heyward in a one-two-three eighth.

NATS NOTES

After allowing four runs on five hits in the first inning, Washington starter Edwin Jackson settled down nicely over his final four innings of work.  From innings two through five, Jackson allowed no runs on only one hit while striking out seven Cubs.

On Saturday, Bryce Harper demonstrated some of the skills that make him one of the Major League’s best players. He hit a long solo home run off of Cubs’ starter John Lackey in the top of the first, giving him a Major League best 12 first inning home runs this year.  In the bottom of the frame, Harper threw a laser from right field to cut down Contreras at third base.  Harper displayed his range in right in the bottom of the fifth, robbing Jon Jay of a potential extra base hit with a running catch at the wall in right center.

On a team with numerous offensive stalwarts, Washington’s Jose Lobaton is not expected to provide much at the plate.  Since the all-star break however,  Lobaton has picked his game up somewhat.  The affable backstop worked a ninth inning walk off of Cubs’ closer Wade Davis in the top of the ninth to keep Washington’s hopes alive, and moved his post-break OPS to .876 in the process.  Before the break, Lobaton’s OPS was an anemic .437.

Both Matt Grace and Matt Albers gave up runs out of the bullpen in yesterday’s game, continuing a trend that has seen the relievers get roughed up in recent outings.  Grace was touched for two runs in the game, giving him 10 runs allowed in his last nine innings pitched since July 23rd.  The Cubs touched Albers for a single run, and the stout righty has now allowed seven hits, three runs and two walks over his last three appearances.

UP NEXT

Sunday’s contest is the rubber game in the seven game regular season series between the two division leading teams.  The Cubs go with veteran left-handed ace Jon Lester, who has a 3-0 record with a 2.77 ERA and a .769 WHIP in his three post-All Star game starts.  Washington’s Matt Wieters has had success (.327 average, four extra hits in 49 at bats) against Lester in the past, but Ryan Zimmerman (2-14, four strikeouts), Daniel Murphy (2-11) and Howie Kendrick (8-46, nine strikeouts) have not.

Rookie Erick Fedde looks for his first Major League win today.  Last Sunday, Fedde gave up 10 hits and seven runs as the Nats fell at home to Colorado.

Game 107 Review- Nats 4 Cubs 2

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Daniel Murphy’s two home runs off of Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks led Washington to a 4-2 win over Chicago at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon in the first game of a three game series between probable 2017 post-season opponents.

Game 107

Nationals 4 Cubs 2

Nats’ Record 64-43, first place in the NL East, 13 games ahead of Miami 

WP- Roark (9-7)  LP- Hendricks (4-4)  SV- Doolittle (8)

HR- Murphy Was 2 (19),  Baez, Chc (15)

If the Nationals and Cubs end up meeting in the 2017 post-season and play games like the one played at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon, the series will be a great one.  On a day where temperatures in the Windy City were more suitable for October than for August, the Nats got solid pitching and clutch hitting by Cubs-killer Daniel Murphy to pull out a 4-2 victory over Chicago.  Washington is now eight games ahead of the Cubs in the loss column in the battle for the second seed (with resulting home field advantage) in the National League playoffs.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the game.

STARS OF THE GAME

Daniel Murphy went 3 for 4 with a pair of homers and three runs driven in to extend his dominance of the Cubs in games played at Wrigley Field.  Among opponents with at least 80 at bats at Wrigley since 1913, only Hall of Famer Eddie Murray (with a 1.111 mark) has a higher OPS than Murphy’s 1.098.    Murphy got the Nats off to a strong start with a booming two run home run to right center in the first inning, and expanded Washington’s lead to 3-0 with an opposite field solo shot in the sixth.

Pitching in his home state of Illinois, Tanner Roark won his ninth game of the year with 6.1 solid innings pitched.  Roark shut the Cubs out through six innings before being removed after giving up Javier Baez’s two run home run in the seventh.  In his last four starts, Roark has allowed eight earned runs in 24 innings pitched while posting a 3-1 record.

Nats’ relievers Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle showed why the revamped Nationals’ bullpen may make the team’s relief pitching a strength down the stretch. The trio recorded the last eight outs of the game, allowing only one hit and striking out three batters in the process.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

Lanky Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks had a magical 2016 season, leading the National League in ERA with a 2.13 mark while winning 16 of his 24 decisions in the Cubs’ championship season.  Things have been tougher for the Ivy League product in 2017, but he showed signs of getting his mojo back yesterday as he allowed only five hits and three runs in seven innings pitched.

NATS NOTES

Murphy’s two home run game marked the 18th time a Nationals’ player has had a multiple home run game so far in 2017.  That total leads the National League.  Murphy’s two round tripper game was his second of the year.  Bryce Harper leads the Nats with five multi-homer games this year with five.   With 55 games still left to play, the Nationals’ 18 instances of multiple home run games this year is the most the team has had in a single season since baseball returned to Washington in 2005. Prior to this season,  Washington’s high mark for instances of multiple home run games in a season was 15, set in 2010.   Ryan Zimmerman’s 20 multiple home run games in his career is the Nats’ high mark, with Harper (15), Adam LaRoche (8), Adam Dunn (8) and Jayson Werth (6) rounding out the top five.

Madson struck out two Cubs in yesterday’s game, including talented Anthony Rizzo and young slugger Kyle Schwarber, to keep the Cubs at bay in the crucial eighth inning.  On the year, Madson has been equally impressive against both lefthanded and righthanded hitters.   Lefties are hitting only .188 with a .266 OPS against the veteran reliever, and righthanders have a .180 average with a .258 OPS.

Washington’s win was its 35th road victory of the year, the second most in the Major Leagues behind Houston’s 38.   The Nats have a .625 winning percentage (35-21 record) on the road so far this year, and are primed to best Washington’s team best .593 winning percentage in road games from the 2012 season.

UP NEXT

If the wind is blowing out at Wrigley Field this afternoon, fans in the bleachers would be smart to bring their baseball gloves with them to the ballpark as both of today’s starting pitchers have had difficulty with the long ball so far in 2017.

Chicago’s John Lackey has surrendered 26 round trippers in 114.2 innings pitched this year.  Only Atlanta’s Julio Teheran, with 27, has given up more among National League hurlers.  Lackey has also shown a difficulty controlling the running game this year, allowing ten steals in 11 attempts.  Look for Adam Lind to be patrolling left field for the Nats today. In 43 career at bats against Lackey, Lind has a .419 average with seven RBI.  Lackey has had success against Bryce Harper, holding the Nats’ star to one hit in 11 career at bats.

Nats’ starter Edwin Jackson has allowed five home runs in his 19 innings pitched for Washington this year.   Anthony Rizzo has four hits in five career at bats against Jackson but the Nats’ righty has had success against Chicago’s Ben Zobrist, holding the versatile veteran to three hits in 15 at bats with five strikeouts.

Nationals Notes- July 30th

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Former National Ian Desmond celebrates his walk-off home run on May 2, 2012 that gave the Nationals a 5-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

With the Nationals a comfortable 12.5 games ahead of the Miami Marlins in the National League East on the day before the 2017 trade deadline, here’s a look at a few notes of interest coming out of the past five games.

WELCOME BACK

What is not to like about former National shortstop Ian Desmond?  Desmond plays the game with passion, is beloved by all who have played with him and, by all accounts, is one of the finest people in baseball as well.

Desmond made his return to Nationals Park this weekend as a member of the Colorado Rockies, but unfortunately will not be able to participate in the series due to injury.

The Florida native was a three time Silver Slugger award winner for Washington, and was an integral part of the Nationals’ rise from cellar dwellers to National League East champions.

Probably the best season for Desmond came in 2012, when he hit. .292 with 25 homers, drove in 73 runs and made the National League All-Star squad in Washington’s first division winning season.   The talented infielder was particularly strong at Nationals Park that season, hitting .310 with 16 home runs and posting a .888 OPS.

BANG ZOOM X 10

Brian Goodwin joined the Nats’ double digit home run club by hitting his 10th in the Nationals’ eight home run effort in its 15-2 trouncing of Milwaukee on July 27th.  Goodwin became the sixth Nationals’ player with 10 or more homers in 2017, joining Bryce Harper (27), Ryan Zimmerman (22), Anthony Rendon (21), Daniel Murphy (17) and Michael A. Taylor (12).    The Nationals’ high mark for most players with 10 or more home runs in a season is eight, set in 2015 and equaled last season.  With Jayson Werth and Adam Lind standing at eight round trippers each and with Matt Wieters and Trea Turner both with seven, there’s a decent chance that the 2017 Nationals will be record setters in this category.

BANG ZOOM X 5

There have been 18 instances of a National League team’s hitting five or more home runs in a game this season, and the Nats lead the way with four such games. In addition to the record-setting eight home run performance on Thursday against the Brewers, the Nats clubbed seven in a 23-5 rout of the Mets on April 30th, hit five in a 13-3 win at Oakland on June 2nd and also hit five in their 14-4 win at Cincinnati on July 17th.

Since 2012, Washington’s 13 five plus home run games trails only Colorado’s 15 among National League teams.

MAKE ROOM FOR SOME HARDWARE

Nationals’ players stand at the top of the Wins Above Replacement totals among both National League batters and pitchers.

Among position players, Anthony Rendon’s 4.9 leads the league with teammate Bryce Harper next at 4.7. Harper comfortably leads the league in OPS at 1.075, with Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt a distant second at 1.017.

Max Scherzer’s 5.5 mark easily leads the way among hurlers, with teammate Gio Gonzalez second at 4.6.   Stephen Strasburg is eighth among National League pitchers at 3.2,

In his bid for his third career Cy Young Award, Scherzer is on pace to become only the second pitcher since 2003 to have 300 or more strikeouts in a season. Scherzer has a league leading 201 punch outs in his first 21 starts.

Gonzalez allowed only two runs in seven strong innings on Wednesday night, but got a no decision in Washington’s 8-5 comeback win over Milwaukee.  The lefty has allowed three or fewer earned runs in all 10 of his starts at Nationals Park this season.

ODDS AND ENDS

Infielder Wilmer Difo has eight RBI in his last 40 at bats after driving in seven in his first 110 of the season. In his last ten games, Difo is hitting .300 with ten runs scored and a pair of RBI.

New Nationals’ bench player Howie Kendrick is as consistent a player as they come.  In his 12 year Major League career, he’s hit .293 with a .753 OPS in games played at his home park while hitting .288 with a .751 OPS in games on the road. In the first halves of seasons Kendrick has a .287 average and a .746 OPS, while hitting .295 with a .740 OPS in road contests.   Among the reasons why picking up the veteran to fortify the Nats’ bench was a good idea is his performance against left-handed pitchers so far in 2017. In 38 at bats against southpaws, Kendrick is hitting .342 with a .918 OPS.

An unsung performer out of the Nats’ bullpen this year has been veteran Oliver Perez. The lefthander with the funky delivery struck out all three Rockies he faced on Saturday night, giving him 29 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched on the year.  Perez has been scored upon in only two of his last 18 outings, and has given up only six hits in 14 innings pitched during that span.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game 96 Review- Nationals 4 Diamondbacks 3

during the MLB game at Chase Field on May 12, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Bryce Harper watches his majestic home run blast off of Arizona rookie Anthony Banda in the first inning of yesterday’s Nationals’ 4-3 win over the Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

WASHINGTON 4 ARIZONA 3

NATIONALS- 58-38, first place in the NL East, 11 games ahead of Atlanta

WP- Roark (8-6)  LP- Banda (0-1)  SV- Doolittle (2)

HR- Harper Was (25)

If the first two games of this weekend’s series are an indicator, a Washington-Arizona post-season matchup would be intriguing. On Saturday, it was the Nationals earning a one run victory as strong starting pitching,  extra-base power from the team’s superstar and a shutdown effort from the bullpen did the job for the visitors.

STARS OF THE GAME

Striking out 11 and allowing only two runs in seven innings pitched, Tanner Roark was on his game last night.  Roark consistently worked ahead of the Diamondbacks’ lineup, and registered his fourth game of 2017 where he’s gone at least seven innings and allowed two or fewer runs (Roark had 15 such efforts in the 2016 season).

A rookie making his Major League debut has few tougher tasks than facing a red-hot former league MVP who seems intent on putting another such trophy on his resume. Arizona’s Anthony Banda found that out in a big way in the top of the first when Bryce Harper hit a booming 467 foot home run.  The home run was the second longest of Harper’s career, behind only his 481 foot blast at Colorado off of Christian Bergman last August.  Harper also contributed a run scoring double to the Nats’ effort.

STRONG EFFORT IN A LOSS

Despite giving up Harper’s home run the left-handed Banda showed promising ability in his debut, but A.J. Pollock was the Diamondbacks best player on the night.   The talented centerfielder went 2-4 for a triple and two runs scored.

NATS NOTES

Rookie Brian Goodwin had three hits, including a double, in five at bats.  Goodwin now has five three hit games this year. Among National Leaguers who have played 75 or fewer games in their careers, only Los Angeles’ Cody Bellinger (with six) has more.

Another Nats’ youngster who is starting to look as though he belongs in the Majors is infielder Wilmer Difo.  Difo had another hit last night, giving him a .395 average and a .490 on base percentage in games played in July.

Despite some slight bumps in the road, Washington’s new back end of the bullpen duo of Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle got the job done last night. Madson worked around a one out double to put up his third straight scoreless inning since joining the Nats.  Walking the leadoff man is usually not the right path to go down when trying to save a game, but Doolittle survived another free pass and a throwing error to nail down the victory.

UP NEXT

Stephen Strasburg takes his 10-3 record to the mound this afternoon against former Nationals’ farm hand Robbie Ray in a battle of All-Star hurlers.

Strasburg is 4-2 with a 3.28 ERA in his career against the Snakes, with a 3-2 mark and a 4.30 ERA in games played at Chase Field.  The fireballing righty has a 7.3 SO/9 record against Arizona in his career, the lowest mark against any opponent.  David Peralta is 4-6 with a homer in his career against Strasburg and Paul Goldschmidt has five hits in 16 at bats, while Daniel Descalso (0-6, two strikeouts) and Jake Lamb (0-6, three strikeouts) have struggled.

The left-handed Ray has surrendered three or fewer runs in 13 of his 18 starts this year, and has put up an impressive 145 strikeouts in his 112 innings pitched.  Ray has been especially tough on left-handed hitters, allowing them only three extra base hits (two doubles, one home run) in 77 at bats.  Two Nats who have had success against Ray in limited appearances are Difo (3 for 6 with a homer) and Ryan Zimmerman (3 for 5 with a double).

Game 95 Review- Diamondbacks 6 Nationals 5

pollock 

Arizona’s A.J. Pollock scores from third with the winning run on Brandon Drury’s RBI single as the Diamondbacks beat the Nats 6-5 on Friday night in a battle of probable National League playoff squads.

NATIONALS 57-38, first in the NL East, 10 games ahead of Atlanta 

Arizona 6  Washington 5

WP- Rodney (4-3)  LP- Romero (2-4) 

HR-  Peralta AZ (10), Pollock AZ (4), Lamb AZ (23)

The Nationals began a three series stretch against potential playoff teams last night in Arizona, and dropped a tough one to the Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Washington battled back from a 5-0 deficit to tie the score in the eighth, but Arizona got the last laugh on a one out bases loaded single by Brandon Drury that was the game winner.  Here’s a look at some of the key happenings from game one of the series.

STARS OF THE GAME

A.J. Pollock went 3 for 5 with three runs scored, a home run and a triple to pace Arizona’s attack. The Diamondbacks’ centerfielder led off the bottom of the ninth with a triple off of Enny Romero to set the stage for Arizona’s walk-off win.

With seven career home runs against the Nats, the most he’s had against any non-National League West team, Jake Lamb is earning a reputation as a Nats killer.  The left-handed swinging third baseman was at it again on Friday, going 2 for 3 with a home run and two RBI.

The Nats eventually got to Arizona starter Zack Godley for four runs in 5.2 innings pitched, but the young hurler was impressive on the night. Godley registered a career high 10 strikeouts, and displayed a tremendous curveball that baffled the Nats’ hitters on occasion.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

Southpaw Matt Grace has flown under the radar to become a solid contributor in the Nats’ bullpen. Grace was amazing on the night, allowing only a scratch single and fanning three in 1.2 scoreless innings.  In his last four outings over four innings pitched, Grace has allowed no runs, only one hit and has struck out five batters.

NATS NOTES

Daniel Murphy broke out of an 0 for 11 slump with three hits in four at bats, a pair of doubles and a RBI. The three hit game was the 13th of the season for the Nats’ hitting machine, only two fewer than the 15 three plus hit games Murphy had in his sensational 2016 campaign.

In 87 career starts for the Nats, Max Scherzer has gone five or fewer innings only nine times.  The Nats’ ace’s five innings pitched was the fewest in a start since May 20th when he went five frames in Washington’s 5-2 loss to Atlanta.  Scherzer’s shortest outing as a National came on August 14, 2015 when he went only three innings in Washington’s 8-5 loss at San Francisco.

Bryce Harper went 1 for 3 with a run scored and a double and walked twice.  Harper’s two free passes give him 63 on the year, tied with Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona for the third most in the National League.  The Reds’ Joey Votto leads the way with 69 walks, and St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter is next with 66.  Harper’s .444 on-base percentage is the second best in the Senior Circuit, trailing only Los Angeles’ Justin Turner’s .467 mark.

UP NEXT

Washington’s Tanner Roark looks for his eighth win of the year tonight at Arizona, with lefty Anthony Banda making his Major League debut for the home team.

Roark is 1-2 with a 3.13 ERA lifetime against Arizona, and is 109 with a 1.80 ERA at Chase Field.  Jake Lamb is 2 for 8 with two homers against Roark and Chris Hermann is 2 for 3 with a homer, while Jeff Mathis is 0-9 with six strikeouts.

Banda was 7-5 with a 5.08 ERA at AAA Reno so far this year, and the Corpus Christi, Texas native gave up a whopping 15 hits and seven runs in five innings pitched in his last start against Salt Lake (Angels’ affiliate).

 

 

Game 89 Review- Nationals 5 Reds 0

 
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Bryce Harper circles the bases following his third inning home run off of Cincinnati’s Tim Adleman in Washington’s 5-0 victory over the Reds at the Great American Ballpark on July 14th.

NATIONALS  5  Reds 0

Record 53-36    9.5 games up on Atlanta in the NL East

WP- Gonzalez (8-4)  LP-  Adleman (5-7)  SV- Grace (1)

HR-  Harper, Was 2(22)

The second half of the Nationals’ season began with a great all-around effort as Washington defeated the Reds 5-0 in the first game of a four game series at Cincinnati.   Here’s a look at some of the news and notes from the game.

STARS OF THE GAME

Gio Gonzalez was razor sharp on the night, allowing only four hits in 8.1 shutout innings to earn his eighth win of the year. Gonzalez induced 14 ground ball outs and struck out six as he registered his 17th game in 19 starts on the year where he’s allowed three or fewer earned runs.   Gonzalez’s 79 pitching game score was his highest in a road contest since September 9, 2013 when he posted a 91 score in Washington’s 9-0 rout of the New York Mets.

Nationals’ rightfielder Bryce Harper is a unique talent, and his power stroke was on display on Friday night.  Harper homered twice for the fourth time this year and registered the 14th multi-home run game of his career to pace Washington’s attack.   The all-star has a nine game hitting streak going, and is 15-34 with 12 runs scored, two doubles, four home runs and 10 RBI during that time period.

He may not have been part of the All-Star festivities in Miami earlier this week, but anyone who has watched Anthony Rendon play this year realizes that the Nats’ third baseman is playing at an All-Star level. Rendon was 2 for 3 with a double and a run batted in at the plate and made several sparkling defensive plays to support Gonzalez’s strong outing.

STRONG EVEN IN DEFEAT

The Reds have a large supply of power arms in the bullpen, and righty Asher Wojciechowski’s ability to throw hard was on display on Friday.   The South Carolina native struck out four, including Harper and Rendon, in two scoreless innings pitched.

NATS NOTES

Brian Goodwin led of the contest with a double to right and later scored the game’s first run on a Stephen Drew RBI hit.  The first inning success for the Nats’ rookie is nothing new. In 24 at bats in the first inning so far this year, Goodwin is hitting .375 with a 1.194 OPS.

Catcher Matt Wieters had a strong game, working with Gonzalez to shut down the Reds and picking up two hits in three at bats. The multi-hit game was the 14th of the year for Wieters, but only his third in games played away from Nationals Park.

Rendon was not the only Nationals’ player flashing the leather on Friday night.  Goodwin and Chris Heisey both made sparking catches, with Goodwin’s keeping the Reds off of the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth with Washington holding only a three run lead.  Middle infielders Drew and Wilmer Difo also were strong with the glove, with Drew turning a potential two run single by Tucker Barnhart into a game ending out to end a Reds’ bases loaded threat.

UP NEXT

Later today, Cincinnati fans will get to see something they’ve not had a chance to do previously.  Nats’ ace Max Scherzer will make the first appearance of his career at the Great American Ballpark as he looks for his 11th win on the year.  In his career Scherzer has posted a 2.75 ERA, the best mark in any month for the All-Star righty.

Opposing Scherzer will be rookie Luis Castillo, who is 1-1 with a 3.13 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched. The righthander has been more effective keeping lefties (.222/.286/.469) than righties (.286/.375/.452) off base so far this year.

So far this year the Nationals have not been living it up on Saturday night, or at any time during the weekend’s first day for that matter.  Washington is 6-8 in Saturday contests so far in 2017.